Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2022 2:15 pm 
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Big former stars reunite for routine action

Director Chuck Russell's debut Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was a big hit and jumpstarted a franchise and he had a string of successes after that through the nineties and early 2000's. Things have not gone so well since. This time he helms a routine crime story with a nice setting: the lush island of Maui, and the distinction of reuniting Bruce Willis and John Travolta for the first time since Pulp Fiction. Willis plays bounty hunter Ryan Swan (an offshoot of his traditional tough guy cop persona) and Travolta is the man who murdered Swan’s father. But unlike Tarantino, Russell hasn't the gift of reviving moribund careers. Travolta emerges as a gilded, soft spoken outsider capo (a blurb calls him "a ruthless power broker") whose fate remains undetermined till the film's end. This may do to pass a little of your time, but it adds no luster to the two actors' careers. though Travolta has an appealing recessive quality for a while.

Paradise City is another of a series of movies featuring Willis brought out with Saban Films (they include Gasoline Alley, Cosmic Sin, and Breach - and Willis shot American Siege with director Edward Drake last year), which fit the category [url=""]Vulture[/url] has described as "geezer teaser potboilers." In these, the Vulture writer says, many Hollywood stars "have found lucrative early retirement." Though Travolta is 68 and Willis 67, this is hardly what we'd normally call retirement, more like cheapening oneself. Willis is busy - but not working all that hard. His appearances are rather minimal. Travolta has more scenes here. There is even a shootout at the end between the two. It's all pretty routine, Nineties TV-series stuff. Why do they bother? Do they need the money? Or do they just need to be working, even in inferior material? A little of both, perhaps. Stephen Dorff also features as Swan's ex-partner who teams up with Swan’s son, Ryan (Blake Jenner) to track down the miscreants who shoot Swan. The chase winds up in a guarded Maui community called Paradise City.

A New York Times review of Russell's 2016 outing with Travolta, I Am Wrath, described it as "full of bad-guy clichés" and ending as "an assemblage of predictable carnage." This isn't a lot different. However, this one does have that lush Hawaii scenery. Travolta sports the bearded, shaven-headed look he has cultivated since early 2019.

Paradise City, 94 mins., will be in theaters and available on digital and on demand Nov. 11, 2022.

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